DeKALB – Laura Vivaldo Cholula, 26, of DeKalb said she came to the U.S. when she was 3 months old. She said her parents came here from Mexico because of the available job opportunities for adults that have an elementary school education.
Vivaldo Cholula, who aspires to go to law school after recently graduating from Northern Illinois University as a political science major, said she currently is a recipient for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. She said that she feels as though she can speak publicly about her personal situation because she is privileged enough as a DACA recipient where she doesn't need to fear deportation.
"I'm undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic," Vivaldo Cholula said.
Vivaldo Cholula was one of several speakers, including 16th Congressional District candidate Sara Dady, at an immigration rally Friday in response to recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in DeKalb County. Dozens of people attended the event at Memorial Park on the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway in DeKalb and participated in chants such as "undocumented, unafraid" and "liberation, not deportation."
During the June 1 raid at Alfredo's Iron Works in Cortland, all employees were questioned, and eight people were detained as a result of collateral arrests, according to a news release from DREAM Action, an undocumented students group at Northern Illinois University.
"After [June 1] was over, I felt the fear in my community," Vivaldo Cholula said.
Dady said during the rally that people immigrate to the U.S. because they are either running to something or running from something.
"But yet, we don't give the majority a lawful way to come," Dady said.
Alejandro Cuautli, 27, an attorney and resident in DeKalb County, said the immigration system knowledge of people who say they believe immigrants should stay only if they came to the U.S. "the right way" is limited. He said each immigration case is different and could depend on several factors, including how they came here and when they came here.
"Best-case scenario, it can take 10 years," Cuautli said.
Incumbent 16th District U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger supports common-sense reform to allow people to legally enter the country, according to his website, but believes illegal immigration places "an unsustainable burden on our public services and communities."
Kinzinger has said he supported DACA because he believed undocumented children that have only known the U.S. to be home deserve the opportunity to be in the country legally, according to a September statement.
Dady said during the rally that people need to reach out to Kinzinger and urge him to participate in public, in-person debates with her before the Nov. 6 election and to take action on immigration reform. Kinzinger said in a September statement that he supports the federal Recognizing America's Children Act, which was introduced in March 2017.
Kinzinger's office did not return a request for comment from the Daily Chronicle on Friday.
Beth Porter, 63, of DeKalb said she purposefully walked her dog past the park so she could attend the rally. She said she made a point to go to the event because she knew what happened at Alfredo's about a week ago when ICE made its way through DeKalb County.
Porter said the government needs to figure out a way to allow people to stay and work in the country.
"I think it's horrible," Porter said. "I just don't see a point to it."
Renee Wester, 34, of DeKalb said she came to the rally because she thinks it's important for families to stay together for a stronger community. Wester said she has known people who were undocumented and that the majority of undocumented immigrants are not causing any harm.
"We're talking about people that are our family, our friends, our neighbors," Wester said. "This is really about peoples' lives."